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Should Search Engines Be Allowed To Censor Our Searches? (1)

Should search engines be allowed to censor our searches or should they be obliged to remain impartial at all times?

As first glance most of us would say they have no right to indulge in editorial censorship of any kind.

On thinking deeper about the question, would we be happy if search engines threw up a rash of child porn websites if we typed in the search term "child porn websites"?

Of course we wouldn't. The vast majority of sane and rational people would be appalled if such sites could be easily unearthed through a search engine.

What would we say, however, if a search engine was found to be deliberately blocking search access to the personal website of a leading UK and US businessman?

What if that website simply told his life story, was not commercial and was non-political.

Again, I don't think many of us would be too happy with such censorship.

In fact, most of us would view the action as a serious breach of our trust in the editorial neutrality of the search engine.

The vast majority of us would agree that a search engine has no business trying to influence what we see or what we think.

Moving out of the theoretical world into the real world, we have a situation where the official website of Sir Brian Souter, the transport mogul and international benefactor, is being deliberately blocked by one of the world's most trusted search engines - Google.

You can still find Sir Brian's website on Yahoo or Bing if you type in the search term "Brian Souter" but it does not come up on Google.

Until a couple of weeks ago it was at the top of Page1 on Google - now it's not even listed.

What are we going to do about this serious breach of trust and power?

Fight them, of course!

I suspect the headlines we generate will rival the outcry over the abuse of editorial power at the News of the World.

If you would like to view Sir Brian's website, go to www.briansouter.com.